MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to decide whether a tender to named plaintiffs in a class action of the amounts claimed in their individual capacities, followed by the entry of judgment in their favor on the basis of that tender, over their objection, moots the case and terminates their right to appeal the denial of class certification.
Respondents, holders of credit cards issued on the "BankAmericard" plan by petitioner Deposit Guaranty National Bank, sued the bank in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, seeking to represent both
Respondents' cause of action was based on provisions of the National Bank Act, Rev. Stat. §§ 5197, 5198, as amended, 12 U. S. C. §§ 85, 86. Section 85 permits banks within the coverage of the Act to charge interest "at the rate allowed by the laws of the State, Territory, or District where the bank is located." In a case where a higher rate of interest than allowed has been "knowingly" charged, § 86 allows a person who has paid the unlawful interest to recover twice the total interest paid.
The modern phenomenon of credit card systems is largely dependent on computers, which perform the myriad accounting functions required to charge each transaction to the customer's account. In this case, the bank's computer was programmed so that, on the billing date, it added charges, subtracted credits, added any finance charges due under the BankAmericard plan, and prepared the customers' statements. During the period in question, the bank made a monthly service charge of 1 1/2% on the unpaid balance of each account. However, customers were allowed 30 days within which to pay accounts without any service charge. If payment was not received within that time, the computer added to the customer's next bill 1 1/2% of the unpaid portion of the prior bill, which was shown as the new balance. The actual finance charges paid by each customer varied depending on the stream of transactions and the repayment plan selected. In addition, the effective annual interest rate paid by a customer would vary because the same 1 1/2% service charge was assessed
The District Court denied respondents' motion to certify the class, ruling that the circumstances did not meet all the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (b) (3).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied respondents' motion for interlocutory appeal. The bank then tendered to each named plaintiff, in the form of an "Offer of Defendants to Enter Judgment as by Consent and Without Waiver of Defenses or Admission of Liability," the maximum amount that each could have recovered. The amounts tendered to respondents Roper and Hudgins were $889.42 and $423.54, respectively, including legal interest and court costs. Respondents declined to accept the tender and made a counteroffer of judgment in which they attempted to reserve the right to appeal the adverse class certification ruling. This counteroffer was declined by the bank.
When respondents sought review of the class certification ruling in the Court of Appeals, the bank argued that the case had been mooted by the entry of judgment in respondents' favor. In rejecting the bank's contention, the court relied in part on United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385 (1977), in which we held that a member of the putative class could appeal the denial of class certification by intervention, after entry of judgment in favor of the named plaintiff, but before the statutory time for appeal had run. Roper v. Consurve, Inc., 578 F.2d 1106 (CA5 1978). Two members of the panel read Rule 23 as providing for a fiduciary-type obligation of the named plaintiffs to act in a representative capacity on behalf of the putative class by seeking certification at the outset of the litigation and by appealing an adverse certification ruling. In that view, the District Court also had a responsibility to ensure that any dismissal of the suit of the named plaintiffs did not prejudice putative class members. One member of the panel, concurring specially, limited the ruling on mootness to the circumstances of the case, i. e., that, after filing of a class action, the mere tender of an offer of settlement to the named plaintiffs, without acceptance,
Having rejected the bank's mootness argument, the Court of Appeals reviewed the District Court's ruling on the class certification question. It concluded that all the requisites of Rule 23 had been satisfied and accordingly reversed the adverse certification ruling; it remanded with directions to certify the class and for further proceedings.
Certiorari was sought to review the holdings of the Court of Appeals on both mootness and class certification. We granted the writ, limited to the question of mootness, to resolve conflicting holdings in the Courts of Appeals.
We begin by identifying the interests to be considered when questions touching on justiciability are presented in the class-action context. First is the interest of the named plaintiffs: their personal stake in the substantive controversy and their related right as litigants in a federal court to employ in appropriate circumstances the procedural device of a Rule 23 class action to pursue their individual claims. A separate consideration, distinct from their private interests, is the responsibility of named plaintiffs to represent the collective interests of the putative class. Two other interests are implicated: the rights of putative class members as potential intervenors, and the responsibilities of a district court to protect both the absent class and the integrity of the judicial process by monitoring the actions of the parties before it.
The Court of Appeals did not distinguish among these distinct interests. It reviewed all possible interests that in its view had a bearing on whether an appeal of the denial of certification should be allowed. These diverse interests are interrelated, but we distinguish among them for purposes
The critical inquiry, to which we now turn, is whether respondents' individual and private case or controversy became moot by reason of petitioner's tender or the entry of judgment in respondents' favor. Respondents, as holders of credit cards issued by the bank, claimed damages in their private capacities for alleged usurious interest charges levied in violation of federal law. Their complaint asserted that they had suffered actual damage as a result of illegal acts of the bank. The complaint satisfied the case-or-controversy requirement of Art. III of the Constitution.
As parties in a federal civil action, respondents exercised their option as putative members of a similarly situated cardholder class to assert their claims under Rule 23. Their right to assert their own claims in the framework of a class action is clear. However, the right of a litigant to employ Rule 23 is a procedural right only, ancillary to the litigation of substantive claims. Should these substantive claims become moot in the Art. III sense, by settlement of all personal claims for example, the court retains no jurisdiction over the controversy of the individual plaintiffs.
The factual context in which this question arises is important. At no time did the named plaintiffs accept the tender in settlement of the case; instead, judgment was entered in their favor by the court without their consent and the case was dismissed over their continued objections.
Congress has vested appellate jurisdiction in the courts of appeals for review of final decisions of the district courts. 28 U. S. C. § 1291. Ordinarily, only a party aggrieved by a judgment or order of a district court may exercise the statutory right to appeal therefrom. A party who receives all that he has sought generally is not aggrieved by the judgment affording the relief and cannot appeal from it. Public Service Comm'n v. Brashear Freight Lines, Inc., 306 U.S. 204 (1939); New York Telephone Co. v. Maltbie, 291 U.S. 645 (1934); Corning v. Troy Iron & Nail Factory, 15 How. 451 (1854); 9 J. Moore, Federal Practice ¶ 203.06 (2d ed. 1975). The rule is one of federal appellate practice, however, derived from the statutes granting appellate jurisdiction and the historic practices of the appellate courts; it does not have its source in the
An illustration of this principle in practice is Electrical Fittings Corp. v. Thomas & Betts Co., 307 U.S. 241 (1939). In that case, respondents sued petitioners for infringement of a patent. In such a suit, the defense may prevail either by successfully attacking the validity of the patent or by successfully defending the charge of infringement. In Electrical Fittings the decree of the District Court adjudged the patent valid but dismissed the complaint for failure to prove infringement. The respondents did not appeal, but petitioners sought review in the Court of Appeals of so much of the decree as adjudicated the patent valid. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the appeal "based on the ground that the appeal can raise no questions not already moot because of the fact that the [petitioners] have already been granted in the dismissal of the bill all the relief to which they are entitled." 100 F.2d 403, 404 (CA2 1938). The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal on this ground after ruling that the decree of the District Court would not in subsequent suits, as a matter of collateral estoppel or otherwise, influence litigation on the issue of the patent's validity. On review here, this Court did not question the view that the ruling on patent validity would
Although the Court limited the appellate function to reformation of the decree, the holding relevant to the instant case was that the federal courts retained jurisdiction over the controversy notwithstanding the District Court's entry of judgment in favor of petitioners. This Court had the question of mootness before it, yet because policy considerations permitted an appeal from the District Court's final judgment and because petitioners alleged a stake in the outcome, the case was still live and dismissal was not required by Art. III. The Court perceived the distinction between the definitive mootness of a case or controversy, which ousts the jurisdiction of the federal courts and requires dismissal of the case, and a judgment in favor of a party at an intermediate stage of litigation, which does not in all cases terminate the right to appeal.
We view the denial of class certification as an example of a procedural ruling, collateral to the merits of a litigation, that is appealable after the entry of final judgment.
Federal appellate jurisdiction is limited by the appellant's personal stake in the appeal. Respondents have maintained throughout this appellate litigation that they retain a continuing individual interest in the resolution of the class certification question in their desire to shift part of the costs of litigation to those who will share in its benefits if the class is certified and ultimately prevails. See n. 6, supra. This individual interest may be satisfied fully once effect is given to the decision of the Court of Appeals setting aside what it held
We cannot say definitively what will become of respondents' continuing personal interest in their own substantive controversy with the petitioner when this case returns to the District Court. Petitioner has denied liability to the respondents, but tendered what they appear to regard as a "nuisance settlement." Respondents have never accepted the tender or judgment as satisfaction of their substantive claims. Cf. Cover v. Schwartz, 133 F.2d 541 (CA2 1942). The judgment of the District Court accepting petitioner's tender has now been set aside by the Court of Appeals. We need not speculate on the correctness of the action of the District Court in accepting the tender in the first instance, or on whether petitioner may now withdraw its tender.
Perhaps because the question was not thought to be open to doubt, we have stated in the past, without extended discussion, that "an order denying class certification is subject to effective review after final judgment at the behest of the named plaintiff. . . ." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 469 (1978). In Livesay, we unanimously rejected the argument, advanced in favor of affording prejudgment appeal as a matter of right, that an adverse class certification ruling came within the "collateral order" exception to the final-judgment rule. The appealability of the class certification
The use of the class-action procedure for litigation of individual claims may offer substantial advantages for named plaintiffs; it may motivate them to bring cases that for economic reasons might not be brought otherwise.
A district court's ruling on the certification issue is often the most significant decision rendered in these class-action proceedings.
That small individual claims otherwise might be limited to local and state courts rather than a federal forum does not justify ignoring the overall problem of wise use of judicial resources. Such policy considerations are not irrelevant to the determination whether an adverse procedural ruling on certification should be subject to appeal at the behest of named plaintiffs. Courts have a certain latitude in formulating the standards that govern the appealability of procedural rulings even though, as in this case, the holding may determine the absolute finality of a judgment, and thus, indirectly, determine whether the controversy has become moot.
We conclude that on this record the District Court's entry of judgment in favor of named plaintiffs over their objections did not moot their private case or controversy, and that respondents' individual interest in the litigation—as distinguished from whatever may be their representative responsibilities to the putative class
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concurring.
I write briefly to state what seems to me to be sufficient differences between this case and United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, post, p. 388, to allow the appeal of the denial of class certification in this case, and to dismiss the attempted appeal of the same question in Geraghty as moot. If I were writing on a clean slate, I might well resolve both these cases against the respondents. But the Court today has not cleaned the slate or been successful in formulating any sound principles
Article III, and this Court's precedents in Jacobs, supra, and Spangler, supra, require dismissal of the action in Geraghty because there is simply no individual interest remaining, no certified class or intervenors to supply that interest, and the action is not within that "narrow class of cases" that are "distinctly `capable of repetition, yet evading review.'" Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 110, n. 11 (1975). The facts in this case, in contrast, fit within the framework of the precedents permitting continuation of the action.
The distinguishing feature here is that the defendant has made an unaccepted offer of tender in settlement of the individual putative representative's claim. The action is moot in the Art. III sense only if this Court adopts a rule that an individual seeking to proceed as a class representative is required to accept a tender of only his individual claims. So long as the court does not require such acceptance, the individual is required to prove his case and the requisite Art. III adversity continues. Acceptance need not be mandated under our precedents since the defendant has not offered all that has been requested in the complaint (i. e., relief for the class) and any other rule would give the defendant the practical power to make the denial of class certification questions unreviewable. Since adversity is in fact retained, and this set of facts fits within a "narrow class of cases" where a contrary rule would lead to the "reality" that "otherwise the issue would evade review," I think our precedents provide for the maintenance
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring.
In his dissenting opinion MR. JUSTICE POWELL states that, because the District Court erroneously refused to certify the class and because no member of the class attempted to intervene, the respondents "are the only plaintiffs arguably present in court." Post, at 346. This position is apparently based on the notion that, unless class members are present for all purposes (and thus may be liable for costs, bound by the judgment, etc.), they cannot be considered "present" for any purpose. I respectfully disagree. In may opinion, when a proper class-action complaint is filed, the absent members of the class should be considered parties to the case or controversy at least for the limited purpose of the court's Art. III jurisdiction. If the district judge fails to certify the class, I believe they remain parties until a final determination has been made that the action may not be maintained as a class action. Thus, the continued viability of the case or controversy, as those words are used in Art. III, does not depend on the district judge's initial answer to the certification question; rather, it depends on the plaintiffs' right to have a class certified.
I therefore join the opinion of the Court.
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring in the judgment.
I concur in the judgment because, under United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, post, p. 388, respondents' appeal of the order denying class certification is not moot. I agree with the Court that the ruling on a class certification motion stands as a litigated issue which does not become moot just because the named plaintiff's suit on the merits is mooted. I would not limit appealability of this procedural motion, however, to situations where there is a possibility that the named plaintiff will be able to recover attorney's fees from either the defendant or the fund awarded to the class.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom MR. JUSTICE STEWART joins, dissenting.
Respondents are two credit card holders who claim that petitioner charged them usurious interest in violation of the National Bank Act and Mississippi law.
No one disputes that the petitioner has tendered everything that respondents could have recovered from it in this action. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected petitioner's suggestion of mootness and reversed the denial of class certification. This Court affirms the judgment of the Court of Appeals, after finding that respondents retain a personal stake in sharing the expense of litigation with members of the putative class. Ante, at 334, n. 6, 336. This speculative interest simply will not sustain the jurisdiction of an Art. III court under established and controlling precedents. Accordingly, I dissent.
Although there are differences, this case is similar to United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, post, p. 388, in one important respect: both require us to decide whether putative class representatives may appeal the denial of class certification when they can derive no benefit whatever from the relief sought in the action. Here, as in Geraghty, the District Court refused to certify a class. In this case, however, the Court recognizes established Art. III doctrine. It states that the "right . . . to employ Rule 23" is a "procedural right only, ancillary to the litigation of substantive claims." Ante, at 332. It also agrees that a federal court "retains no jurisdiction
Since no class has been certified and no one has sought to intervene, respondents are the only plaintiffs arguably present in court. Yet respondents have no continuing interest in the injuries alleged in their complaint. They sought only damages; those damages have been tendered in full.
This in itself is compelling evidence that respondents have no interest in the "individual and private case or controversy" relied on by the Court today. Ante, at 332. But even without such evidence, this and other courts routinely have held that
I know of no authority remotely suggesting that the result should differ because the District Court has entered a judgment in favor of respondents instead of dismissing their lawsuit as moot.
It is this constitutional limitation, and not any rule of practice, that has impelled federal courts uniformly to require a
Electrical Fittings Corp. v. Thomas & Betts Co., supra, is the case primarily relied upon by the Court. It provides little or no support for today's ruling. In Electrical Fittings, a limited appeal was allowed because the petitioner himself was prejudiced by the inclusion of an unnecessary and adverse finding in a generally favorable decree. See ante, at 337.
After recognizing that the right to appeal is subject to the "jurisdictional limitations of Art. III," the Court agrees that only a "party [who] retains a stake in the appeal [can satisfy] the requirements of Art. III." Ante, at 334; see ante, at 336. The Court also agrees that respondents have no remaining stake in "the merits of the substantive controversy." Ibid. Nevertheless, it holds that respondents retain a personal stake in this appeal because they "desire to shift to successful class litigants a portion of those fees and expenses that have been incurred in this litigation and for which they assert a continuing obligation." Ante, at 334, n. 6; see ante, at 336.
The Court's reliance on unidentified fees and expenses cannot be reconciled with the repeated admonition that "unadorned speculation will not suffice to invoke the federal judicial power." E. g., Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 44 (1976). Such speculation is particularly inappropriate in this case, since neither the Court nor the respondents have suggested that the petitioner is or ever will be liable for the fees or expenses relied upon. Indeed, the American Rule would bar an award of attorney's fees against this petitioner. Thus, respondents' "injury"—if any exists— is not one that "fairly can be traced" to the petitioner. Id., at 41-42; see Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 99 (1979).
Since respondents have no continuing personal stake in the outcome of this action, Art. III and the precedents of this Court require that the case be dismissed as moot. E. g., Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171, 172-173 (1977) (per curiam); Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147 (1975) (per curiam); Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U. S., at 401-404; Indianapolis School Comm'rs v. Jacobs, 420 U.S. 128 (1975); DeFunis v. Odegaard, 416 U.S. 312, 316-320 (1974) (per curiam); North Carolina v. Rice, supra, at 246; SEC v. Medical Committee for Human Rights, 404 U.S. 403, 407 (1972).
Respondents do not suggest that their claims are "capable of repetition, yet evading review." Cf. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 110-111, n. 11 (1975).
Despite the absence of an Art. III controversy, the Court directs a remand in which this federal action will be litigated by lawyers whose only "clients" are unidentified class members who have shown no desire to be represented by anyone.
A finding of mootness would have repercussions primarily in two situations. The first involves a named plaintiff who fails to obtain class certification and then pursues his case to a successful, litigated judgment. I believe that a subsequent attempt by that plaintiff to appeal the denial of certification generally would be barred by Art. III. But the consequences of applying settled rules of mootness in that situation would not be unjust. If injunctive or declaratory relief were granted, the absent members of the putative class would have obtained by force of stare decisis or the decree itself most of the benefits of actual class membership. If, on the other hand, damages were awarded and an appeal permitted, reversal of the certification ruling would enable putative class members to take advantage of a favorable judgment on the issue of liability without assuming the risk of being bound by an unfavorable judgment. Thus, the Court's decision to allow appeals in this situation will reinstate the "one-way intervention" that the 1966 amendments to Rule 23 were intended to eliminate.
Perhaps more commonly, the mootness question will arise when the defendant attempts to force a settlement before judgment, as petitioner did in this case. A defendant certainly will have a substantial incentive to use this tactic in some cases. The Court argues that the result will be to deny compensation to putative class members and jeopardize the enforcement of certain legal rights by "`private attorney[s] general.'" Ante, at 338. The practical argument is not without force. But predicating a judgment on these concerns
The Court's concern for putative class members would be more telling in a more appropriate case. A pattern of forced settlement could indeed waste judicial resources on the litigation of successive suits by members of the putative class. I do not doubt that the consequent problems of judicial administration would be real. But these problems can and should be addressed by measures short of undercutting the law of mootness, as the Court seems to have done today. The first step should be the authorization of interlocutory appeals from the denial of class certification in appropriate circumstances.
Where a defendant does attempt to moot a class action by forced settlement, the district court is not powerless. In at least some circumstances, it may require that putative class members receive some sort of notice and an opportunity to intervene within the appeal period. Rule 23 (d) (2). The availability of such measures could be a significant deterrent to the deliberate mooting of class actions. Indeed, district court management of the problem by measures tailored to the case at hand may well be preferable to the Court's open-ended approval of appeals in all circumstances. To the extent interlocutory appeals are unavailable or managerial powers are lacking, it is for Congress—not this Court—to correct the deficiency.
Since a court is limited to the decision of the case before it, judicially fashioned "solutions" to legislative problems often
The Court's holding well may prevent future "forced settlements" of class-action litigation. Thus, the difficulties faced by the District Court on remand in this case may not arise again in precisely analogous circumstances. But today's result also authorizes appeals by putative class representatives who have litigated and prevailed on the merits of their individual claims. If the order denying class certification is reversed in that situation, the named plaintiffs on remand will have no more continuing relationship to the putative class than respondents have here. A remand for certification could also lead to "one-way intervention" in direct violation of Rule 23. See supra, at 354, and n. 14. These tensions,
In sum, the Court's attempted solution to the problem of forced settlements in consumer class actions departs from settled principles of Art. III jurisprudence.
I recognize that there is tension between the approach I have suggested and the Court's sua sponte decision in Indianapolis School Comm'rs v. Jacobs, 420 U.S. 128. See also Pasadena City Bd. of Education v. Spangler, 427 U.S. 424, 430. As MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN points out in United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, post, at 400, n. 7, that case is distinguishable from this case because it involved an attempt to litigate the merits of an appeal on behalf of an improperly certified class. I agree that the Court could not properly consider the merits until the threshold question of whether a class should have been certified was resolved. However, I disagree with the Court's conclusion that the entire action had to be dismissed as moot. In my view, the absent class members remained sufficiently present so that a remand on the class issue would have been a more appropriate resolution.
Just as absent class members whose status has not been fully adjudicated are not "present" for purposes of litigating the merits of the case, I would not find them present for purposes of sharing costs or suffering an adverse judgment. If a class were ultimately certified, the class members would, of course, retain the right to opt out.
"Of course, the interest of the [respondents] in assertion of the right to proceed on behalf of the class includes such matters as the prospect for spreading attorney's fees and expenses among more claimants and thus reducing the percentage that would otherwise be payable by them." Plaintiffs-Appellants' Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Appeal and Reply Brief, filed in Roper v. Consurve, Inc., No. 76-3600 (CA5, Jan. 10, 1977).
"Plaintiff alleges that the Clerk of this Court be designated custodian of the funds and judgment to be paid Plaintiff and other persons similarly situated, by Defendants and the Clerk deposit said funds in a suitable depository and, upon proper order of this Court, disburse said funds after deduction of necessary expenses and attorney fees to Plaintiff's attorneys herein of twenty-five per cent (25%) of the amount so paid, the same being reasonable by all standards, including that alleged and utilized by Defendants in suing certain members in of [sic] the class in State Courts for unpaid accounts." Id., at 13-14.
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS indicates that unnamed members of an uncertified class may be "present" as parties for some purposes and not for others. No authority is cited for such selective "presence" in an action. Nor is any explanation offered as to how a court is to determine when these unidentified "parties" are present. If their presence is to be limited to the satisfaction of the Art. III case-or-controversy requirement, then the rule of party status would have no content apart from Art. III and could only be described as a legal fiction. If, on the other hand, the proposed rule is to apply outside the Art. III context, it may have troublesome and far-reaching implications that could prejudice the bringing of class actions. Presumably, a purpose of the rule of party status would be to assure that satisfaction of the claims of named parties would not terminate the litigation. Nor could the rights of unnamed parties be extinguished by the failure of the named parties to appeal. Thus, if the rule proposed by MR. JUSTICE STEVENS is to accomplish its purpose, I suppose that a fiduciary duty must be imposed upon named parties to continue the litigation where—as here—the unnamed parties remain unidentified and fail to intervene. As fiduciaries, would the named parties be required not only to continue to litigate, but also to assume personal responsibility for costs and attorney's fees if the case ultimately is lost? Would responsible litigants be willing to file class actions if they thereby assumed such long-term fiduciary obligations? These and like questions are substantial. They are not resolved by Rule 23. I believe they merit careful study by Congress before this Court—perhaps unwittingly— creates a major category of clientless litigation unique in our system.